Lawson cyclotron to produce new imaging agent that may better locate prostate cancer

Lawson Health Research Institute is the first in Canada to enter a sublicense agreement with The Centre for Probe Development and Commercialization (CPDC) to produce PSMA-1007, a new imaging agent that could help improve the detection of prostate cancer.

The radiopharmaceutical tracer can locate and bind to prostate specific membrane antigen (PSMA) – a protein on the surface of prostate cancer cells. This imaging agent makes the prostate cancer cells visible with PET/CT (positron emission tomography/computed tomography) imaging.

Dr. Glenn Bauman, a Radiation Oncologist at the London Regional Cancer Program at London Health Sciences Centre and Scientist with Lawson, has been involved in a number of research developments in PSMA PET/CT.

“Until now, a PET imaging agent called 18F-DCFPyL, was commonly used in research. More recently, we've been looking at a PET radiopharmaceutical called PSMA-1007 that may give us clearer pictures in the pelvis and the area of the prostate,” says Dr. Bauman, who is also a Professor of Oncology and Medical Biophysics at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry.

Dr. Michael Kovacs, Director of the Lawson Cyclotron & PET Radiochemistry Facility at St. Joseph’s Health Care London, says the license means London will have a local supply of PSMA-1007 that is “more or less a magic bullet for prostate cancer cells.”

Radiopharmaceuticals decay quickly after production and so there is a need to produce them locally. Lawson’s cyclotron, which is housed at St. Joseph’s, is one of fewer than roughly two dozen facilities in Canada and delivers products to the GTA, Windsor and London.

“The cyclotron is a type of particle accelerator where we can accelerate particles called protons to high energy and fire them into a target that makes radioisotopes every day,” Dr. Kovacs explains. “The raw radioisotope is taken to the lab to synthesize PET radiopharmaceuticals, including PSMA imaging agents, before going through quality control.”

“Being able to produce PSMA-1007 locally is exciting, as outsourcing comes with logistical challenges if a production run fails or transportation fails,” explains says Dr. Bauman. “Having our own means of production is a real advantage to us as we conduct our research.”

CPDC, which holds the rights to produce PSMA-1007 in Canada, is already running a clinical trial in hopes of having it available in clinical settings. They expect to have study results in two to three years.

Early studies show the clearer images from PSMA-1007 may have the biggest impact in patients with a recurrence of prostate cancer who have already had treatment. The return of cancer can be very small and difficult to detect with conventional methods. In many of those cases, studies are finding a rise in PSMA levels can be an early signal of the cancer’s return, allowing for earlier diagnosis with PSMA PET.

Looking forward, PSMA-1007 has the potential to be used as a theranostic agent where by the isotope is used deliver radiation treatment directly to the cancer, but this application is likely many years away.

This is the part two of a three-part series on PSMA PET imaging research. Check out part one and three.

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Amanda Taccone

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Lawson Health Research Institute
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